EFSA issued its scientific opinion on Callebaut’s claim on Tuesday and the European Commission will now decide whether to approve the claim, amend it, or reject it.
The claim made under Article 13.5 of the European Union nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) is the first cocoa flavanols submission to obtain a positive EFSA opinion. It reads:
Cocoa flavanols help maintain endothelium-dependent vasodilation which contributes to normal blood flow."
EFSA said that the claimed effect could only be obtained through 200mg of cocoa flavonals daily, which is equivalent to 2.5 high flavonal cocoa powder or 10g of high flavonal dark chocolate, about one fifth of a regular sized chocolate bar.
‘Encouraging’ for industry
The Association of Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries (CAOBISCO) welcomed the news.
Sabine Nafziger, CAOBISCO secretary general, told ConfectioneryNews.com that this was a "clear and science-based opinion" that was "very encouraging for our industry”.
“[It] rewards the outcome of many years of research and clinical studies into ways of preserving cocoa flavanols and establishing their health benefits.”
“This opinion will not open up the floodgates but will encourage our industry to pursue its innovation efforts and researches,” she said.
Building its case
Barry Callebaut obtained the EFSA nod based upon five published and one unpublished randomised controlled trials.
The EFSA panel considered one study from Davison et al. from 2008 involving 65 participants that found that cocoa flavanols consumed over 12 weeks could increase endothelium-dependent vasodilation significantly, which could help to regulate blood flow.
Barry Callebaut, which has the right to the claim for five years, hopes the EFSA opnion will open up new market potential for chocolate products produced through its Acticoa process. The company claims the Acticoa process can preserve 80% of cocoa flavanols usually destroyed in the chocolate-making process.
If the Commission approves the claim, Callebaut customers using its high-flavanol cocoa products will be able to apply the claim on their products and packaging.
Nutritional profile challenge
“However, if nutrient profiles are agreed, several products might not be allowed to wear this allegation,” warned Nafziger.
Nigel Baldwin, director of scientific and regulatory consulting Europe for Intertek Cantox, told this site that the chocolate industry had struggled with nutritional profiles in the past.
“In order to be ‘chocolate' you have to have fat and so on, so in the earlier days and with the resurgence of the discussion on nutrient profiles, claims on chocolate per se have been a potential non-starter,” he said.
Nafziger added that the wording of the claim may be changed by the Commission to be better understood be consumers.
Likelihood of Commission approval
Inga Koehler, head of nutritional business consulting at analyze&realize, gave this publication her thoughts on the likelihood of the claim’s passage through the European Commission.
“It will be interesting to see how the different member states will judge the claim,” she said.
“It cannot be excluded that the cocoa choc-claim will suffer the same fate like the caffeine claims related to cognition or physical performance. In the past, we have witnessed how a (positive) scientific opinion by EFSA was turned into a political decision by the EC.”
She said that allowing a claim on chocolate could lead to higher consumption and thus increased intakes of sugar and fat, which could give member states cause for concern.